Chinwe Edeani is an M.T.S. student at Duke Divinity School who is completing the Certificate in Theology and the Arts alongside her degree and has a professional background in engineering and data management. A self-taught photographer, Chinwe’s still-life and nature photographs have been displayed in numerous galleries and shows in Baltimore, Md. She is also a regular contributor to Viewfinders, an online publication about art and photography. Her academic, theological, and artistic work focuses on light and shadows. She holds a master of arts from St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore. Learn more about her at She was interviewed by Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts (DITA), a Duke Divinity School initiative. 

What brought you to Duke Divinity and the Certificate in Theology and the Arts? Tell us a little bit about yourself prior to your time here at Duke Divinity.

Before coming to Duke Divinity full time, I worked as a software engineer in Baltimore. I most recently worked on the team that built and maintains the data archive for several space telescopes, including the James Webb Space Telescope. During that time, I also studied part-time at the St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute and graduated with a master of arts degree in theology in 2021. I’ve always been interested in many forms of art and got into photography many years ago. As a way of engaging the world, I found photography to be a rich practice through which I experience grace. In my photography, I am often capturing the boundary between light and darkness, the shadow places—an interest prompted in part by my work on space telescopes but also in part by my theological leanings.

During my time at St. Mary’s, I became interested in how the search for beauty is related to the love of God, particularly how we are shaped generatively in shadow places. And I wanted language to think about these theological concepts and to study at a place where I could weave together my theological and artistic interests, so I was very excited to come to Duke Divinity and engage these concepts with DITA.

How has the Certificate coursework shaped both your academic thinking and your art? Tell us a bit about your time here at DITA so far.

I am only in my second semester here, but so far it’s been very meaningful. The “Introduction to Theology and the Arts” class last semester was a nice survey of various art forms and the ways in which they can communicate the breadth of God’s goodness and deepen our love of God. In the class, when we engaged any piece of art, Dr. Train challenged us to think about how it works, how the art is making meaning through its form. One of our projects got us thinking about how art can interpret scripture and vice versa. The boundaries between what we might consider “secular” and “sacred” are not as fixed as we might think, and my coursework at DITA has helped me explore the spaces between boundaries we have historically thought were fixed—such as light and darkness, sacred and secular.


"My coursework at DITA has helped me explore the spaces between boundaries we have historically thought were fixed—such as light and darkness, sacred and secular."

Can you identify a critical moment thus far in the certificate program that has clarified your academic thinking and theological affections? Perhaps a particular course or thinker has proved meaningful, or has there been a semester where your training has converged in a formative way?

Dr. Strawn’s class “The Bible and/as Poetry” was a pivotal moment for me so far. The coursework led us on a deep dive into poetry in order to better understand the many biblical poems. We explored questions like, How does poetry work? How does poetry do what it does? Prior to the class, I hadn’t read much poetry, but I wanted to grow in my appreciation of it. Dr Strawn’s proposal of understanding the Bible as a poem opened up a new way of approaching the text, with curiosity and the expectation of encountering and being shaped by a unique imaginative world. Reading poetry is one thing, but writing about it is an entirely different challenge, so I appreciated the opportunity to think critically and articulate some of what I previously had little language for. The class was also a lot of fun and very well taught.

How has the interdisciplinary nature of the Certificate program affected your intellectual formation?

I have been encouraged by so many of the readings I’ve done in class where thinkers are drawing connections between seemingly disparate areas. Dr. Train’s “Introduction to Theology and the Arts” course really emphasized the need for interdisciplinary thinking, and it has been enriching to read so widely in my coursework so far—a theologian musing about the importance of artistic performance and the possible implications for faithful living, or a biblical scholar reflecting on how God works through dance and movement. These readings have felt like a gentle invitation to think deeply and to freely explore what interests me, and that is what is so meaningful about DITA. The coursework and faculty help students explore and probe theological questions and study from a variety of angles and approaches—but all with rich theological and biblical grounding.

What do you hope to do beyond your time at the Divinity School? Has the certificate program equipped you for that vocation? Has it changed how you view your vocational journey?

I am still in the process of discerning what my next step will be after Divinity School. I love what I’m currently studying, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to go deeper in my thinking and writing. I have many aspirations, including doctoral work, but I thankfully have some more time here at Duke Divinity for further exploration. I do know that regardless of what I do vocationally, my time at Duke has been wonderfully enriching. I consider my artistic practice to be a part of my vocation, a practice and conviction which will be further deepened thanks to the rich theological and artistic environment cultivated by DITA.

Would you encourage prospective students to pursue the Certificate in Theology and the Arts? What word of advice and support would you offer incoming students?

Definitely! If you have an interest in the intersection of theology and the arts, the certificate will give you the chance to go deeper. There are so many faithful scholars and practitioners here. Keep an open heart, and be prepared to grow in love of God and love of the world.